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Medical and veterinary schools work together for cataract surgery course

A one-day cataract surgery training course for ophthalmology residents took place at the College of Veterinary Medicine in January. The Medical School residents performed phacoemulsification, an advanced cataract surgery technique that requires a very small incision in the cornea. The procedure was performed on rabbit eyes, the animal eyes that are most similar to human eyes in dimension. (Healthy human eyes are reserved for transplants in most cases.)

The training course is an annual event, one that residents must complete before performing cataract surgery on a human patient.

The collaborative effort was the brainchild of associate professor of ophthalmology Mary Lawrence, M.D., M.P.H. Lawrence says one of the highlights of the session was a lecture on animal eyes by veterinary ophthalmologist Kathryn Diehl, D.V.M. “Her lecture on cataract surgery in animals was phenomenally interesting,” says Lawrence. “Animal eyes come in all shapes and sizes, so veterinary ophthalmologists must be very versatile.”

The course was the first of its kind, but Diehl hopes to see more like it in the future. “I came from a program with a very strong collaborative tradition. By bridging the gap between the medical and veterinary schools, we could both expand our research and clinical opportunities,” she says. “Our schools have different things to offer but similar interests and goals. And, of course, most clinical trials are conducted in animals first and then in humans.”

Adds Lawrence: “We’re not anatomically very different from other species and, in fact, birds of prey have better eyes than we do. They can see a little mouse from a mile up. Veterinary ophthalmologists can learn from us, and we can learn from them.”

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